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Yasmine Djoudi and Thomas Pouplin

Co-founders

ikkai

What does your company do?

ikkai is an online platform where individuals and companies can outsource small jobs and tasks to students. Clients post a task – they can ask for anything – and set their own price. Then students apply to complete the jobs.

What problem is your company trying to solve?

We focus on helping out companies and individuals because they each have unique needs. Companies are pretty heavily impacted by the labor shortage in Japan. Sometimes they need to hire someone to do a short task, and don’t want to devote their resources to hiring a fulltime employee. Before we started, their only options were to hire using a temp agency or posting and ad in an employment paper. Both of those options are really expensive and don’t guarantee the company will actually find someone to do the work. It’s more like making a bet than anything. With ikkai, the company only pays once they’ve selected a student to do the work. Essentially, they post jobs for free and if they find someone that’s great but if they don’t they are not wasting money so there’s no risk.

For individuals, we think people need to be able to take advantage of their free time. It’s important that they can get help doing small tasks so they can spend more time doing what they enjoy.

Why did you choose Fukuoka?

We came here as exchange students 3 years ago while working to complete our master’s degrees. Since Fukuoka is Bordeaux’s sister city, doing our exchange here was an easy choice. While we were studying here we fell in love with the city and really felt at home.

From a business perspective, it’s stressful enough to start your own company. Living in a stress-free city means that you’re more able to be creative and efficient when you are dealing with work-related stress. Fukuoka isn’t too crowded, the commutes are short, the rent is pretty average and the food is inexpensive. It’s easier to establish a startup in a smaller city like Fukuoka and the burn rate is less. If we had tried to launch somewhere like Tokyo we would have run out of money in 2-3 months. Our resources went a lot farther in Fukuoka and the city gave us a chance to help students earn more money while making people’s lives easier. It just made sense to start ikkai here.

What do you think about Fukuoka's startup community?

They are trying their best to grow the community. A lot of effort is being made to build a strong startup network, which is great.

How has Fukuoka City helped your startup?

Well, being chosen as the first people to receive the new startup visa really helped. It gave us a lot of exposure and media coverage which got ikkai’s name out there. City Hall also invited us to some really important networking events that allowed us to make important connections. The Startup Café was also a great resource. They gave us free advice and feedback on our pitch and listened to our ideas. We also got some good information on how to finance our company.

What is your advice for people looking to start a company in Fukuoka? Is there anything you wish you had known?

It’s important to have a very clear plan for your company before you move here. The startup visa period isn’t long enough to start your company while also doing the market testing. You need to come with a solid MVP at the very least. It takes time for you to test the market and pull everything together, and if your project isn’t advanced enough you risk not qualifying for the business manager visa after the startup visa expires

It’s also good to try and get in touch with other startup founders before you arrive. Since it’s a tight-knit community, people are very willing to help and you’ll find that networking is everything. If you have the right network, you can have your questions answered or get great advice within a few minutes. In fact, that’s how we found someone to help us register our company. So don’t be afraid to reach out to people.